Small business expo goes big to mark 10th year

Thompson’s Artist, Crafter and Small Business Expo at the Thompson Regional Community Centre (TRCC) Nov. 3 celebrated its 10th year by adding about 10 more exhibitors than the usual maximum.

“We had 60 tables,” said Dennis Green, a development officer with Community Futures North Central Development (CFNCD), which organized the event. "Generally it’s a maximum of 52 which is all the TRCC has for tables. We had a waiting list of about eight or nine people. We said if you bring your table, we’ll find room for you, and it’s a fantastic event.”

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A rough count of attendance at the expo, which is free for both shoppers and businesses, was about 600 by 1 p.m., two hours before it wrapped up.

“Artists, crafters and small businesses can come in and sell their wares without having to worry about making money before they have to pay for their table,” said Green. “Everything they make is their own.”

Coming just as the Christmas shopping season gets underway, the expo is a great way for consumers and home-based business operators to gains exposure to each other.

“Most of these businesses are in their basement so their visibility is very limited,” Green said. “This gives them perfect exposure for them to see more people. They can take orders, book appointments, whatever. We do get out-of-town people but a lot of the people are just tremendous local artists and you’d never know they were there without events like this.”

One of those local artists taking part was Len Shaw of Through Len’s Eye photography, who took up photography in 2014 and recently added painting to his artistic repertoire.

“I wanted to learn how to take pictures of the northern lights so I learned that and kind of went from there,” said Shaw. “I just took up art in June. Watched a video and kind of went crazy. I have a habit of going crazy with stuff when I like it.”

Shaw has an art studio in his apartment and rents a studio space elsewhere for portrait photography. The idea to start doing paintings came from his day job.

“I work at The Brick too. People are always coming in wanting to buy big [paintings] … so I started doing my own,” he says, with most of the works he had on display being abstract colour studies. “I don’t use a brush or anything, it’s just move it around, spin it, dump it.”

To find out more about Shaw’s photos and artwork, visit or search the handle Through Len’s Eye on Facebook and Instagram.

One of the out-of-town expo participants was Rodney Forbes of Forbes’ Forest Finds, selling wild rice and other natural products harvested from the wild.

“Non-timber forest products is what we’re more into than anything,” said Forbes. “We’ve developed soups, we sell wild rice, chaga. All the stuff that you see on the table here has been harvested from the wild.”

Forbes got into this business through his work in the conservation field.

“A gentleman called me and asked if I would be able to supply large quantities of botanicals. So I said, 'Well, I’ll try.' I tried one year, it was profitable so I ended up, five years later, here I am doing this.”

Among the natural products Forbes had for sale was high bush cranberry bark, which can help with cramps.

“When you get cramping medicine that you see on the shelf it probably has some component of high bush cranberry,” said Forbes, who can be reached by phone at 204-620-0332.

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